Montrose Feed and Supply managers (from left) Katie, Emma and Karen Parrish, holding Toby, Mylo and Polly are happy to be able to invite customers back into their showroom along Route 29 South as of May 22.
Photo and story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
When members of the Parrish family were challenged with maintaining a vital business at the onset of the COVID-19 related shutdowns, they weren’t sure what to do. As the governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Health started rolling out guidelines for businesses considered “life-sustaining,” sisters Emma and Katie Parrish and their mother, Karen, initially kept the doors of Montrose Feed & Supply open.
But the uncertainty of the potency of the coronavirus and how it was spreading made them uncomfortable. Not only were the siblings concerned about the possibility of unknowingly taking the infection home to their grandparents, they mulled over the public safety side of the situation. On March 27, they locked the entrance and started filling orders by phone and making appointments for pickups.
“We wanted to go to just curbside sales to make sure that people were staying safe,” said Katie.
It was the second abrupt change that the family had incurred since opening the business in November of 2019. The first was a move after just under three months from Route 706 to their current location at 10273 SR 29 south of Montrose. The family owned the building in which the girls’ father, Guy, had a shop. Katie jokes that they “threw him out” to make room for the new store.
The business had already developed a devoted client base that includes 4-H youths who are offered special discounts. Emma and Katie showed animals with 4-H when they were in high school, and Emma has shown horses since she was 10. Guy grew up on a dairy farm and, after a break from cattle, decided to develop a beef herd on the farmstead adjacent to the land on which the store sits.
With the COVID situation bringing such rapid changes, Karen took no chances with the possibility of supply shortages or a disruption in transportation and doubled her orders for store stock. It was the need for feed and filling orders for baby chicks that kept Karen, Emma and Katie busy over the past three months. Well, that and the arrival three kittens.
The women had convinced Guy that the shop should have a cat to keep the business mouse free and selected a black and white kitten from a new litter that they named Mylo. Next, they convinced Guy that Mylo needed a companion and went back for another cat to learn that there were only two kittens left.
“We couldn’t leave just one kitten there, so we took both of them,” Katie explained. They returned with Mylo’s brother, a tiger-striped kitten they named Toby, and their black and white sister, whom they named Polly.
Polly was ill and needed an antibiotic to clear an infection in her eyes. With the help of a veterinarian, the Parrishes nursed Polly back to health, though they believe that she will always be blind in one eye. The three felines have become playful buddies and helped to distract the employees, including Gary Snow, Tanya Bevilacqua, and Rebecca Johnson, from the ongoing health crisis and the unusual new work mode.
“They’ve been so fun to watch. They play with all of their toys and attack each other,” said Katie. “Sometimes it’s hard to get work done.”
The kittens also became Facebook stars and the cat-alysts for an online Guess the Gender contest. Out of 30 responses, only three participants correctly guessed the genders of all three kittens and were entered into a drawing by which Rachel Pompey won a $25 gift certificate to the store.
Though their curbside approach kept the business going, Katie admits that a lot of rainy and snowy days made the work a bit challenging and dreary. “We like to talk with our customers and see their faces,” she remarked.
When Gov. Wolf announced on May 15 that Susquehanna County would be among 12 more in Pennsylvania to “go yellow” on May 22, the Parrishes decided that it was time to open the door again. Foot traffic in and out of the showroom was steady on Friday, with all employees and customers wearing masks and maintaining safe distancing.
Hummingbird and oriole feeders were in immediate demand, as were flea collars and a wide array of other products for cats and dogs. Additional offerings awaiting shoppers are garden implements, horse tack, pond supplies and repellents for rodents, rabbits and deer. Of course, there is plenty of feed for both pets and farm animals.
Montrose Feed and Supply is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and on Saturday from 9 am to noon. Interested readers can keep up with specials and the antics of Mylo, Toby and Polly on the store’s Facebook page.